New Zealand Wine Becomes First to Wear Carbon Reduction Label

Mobius Marlborough Carbon Reduction Label

The New Zealand Wine Company (NZWC) declared that starting in 2011, each bottle of Mobius Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will wear the Carbon Reduction Label, the first label of its kind in the wine industry.  The wine can sport this label because it received certification by the UK’s Carbon Trust, which aims to put carbon labeling on products in all industries.  This certification is a landmark occasion for NZWC, the wine’s producer, who has been actively working to improve their sustainable management practices.

Quoted in a recent Guardian article, Craig Fowles, NZWC’s sustainability manager, commented on the announcement, “It’s a very important certification as it is a full-life cycle carbon approach. Recently the Carbon Trust in the UK announced that sales of products carrying its carbon reduction label will shortly top £2bn per annum.”

The number found on the label is calculated independently for each of the wine’s export markets and is based on the carbon footprint of an individual 125ml glass of wine.  In New Zealand, the label will read 140g CO2 and 190g for bottles shipped to Australia.  The calculation takes into account carbon emissions generated from various criteria such as refrigeration, production and transportation.

Aura Sustainability, a carbon life cycle expert in the food and beverage industry, oversaw the certification by using their barefootTM measurement models and tools.  Aura’s Principle Consultant Roger Kerrison explains the marketing advantage that the label provides to NZWC in this story, “There are obviously huge benefits considering this is a world first and places the NZWC in a leading position as an early adopter, but this certification is also a sensible risk management strategy.  The life cycle information that barefootTM provides to the NZWC allows them to engage their supply chain and make decisions that will make their wines extremely carbon competitive on the supermarket shelf alongside their contemporaries. This is the market imperative of carbon labeling, and if successful will actually provide a market solution for the reduction of environmental and carbon impacts of consumer goods.”

Other wine associations and businesses like Joseph Mellot, a French wine producer, are approaching carbon reduction in a different way.  The company participates in the 10:10 carbon reduction movement and has created the Green Bottle Sauvignon Blanc — the first wine to be bottled in PET, a strong but light weight plastic that uses 68% less carbon in production than regular glass bottles.  The Wine & Spirits Trade Association made a Transport Carbon Calculator in a move to help establish a more standardized means by which companies can determine their transportation carbon footprint.

These developments indicate a consumer demand for labeling that includes more than a simple description of flavor, aroma and terroir, but also shows a winery’s efforts to address their carbon emissions.  While the Carbon Reduction Label, Green Bottle, and trade leader carbon calculators are clear signs progress, an agreed upon, consistent and comprehensive methodology will be necessary across the wine industry in order for consumers to truly be able to make accurate, environmentally-conscious purchasing decisions when comparing wines side by side.

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Lesley Lammers

Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.

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